As Gomer Pyle would say

“Sooprize, sooprize, sooprize!”

That’s how I felt when we walked into our vacation home for our 25th anniversary celebration.

Getting here was part of the fun.  We left our home (the one we live in full-time) in heavy rain and 60 degrees.  I had worn jeans, knowing I’d be cold in the airports and planes, and a short-sleeved shirt, knowing it would be almost 100 degrees when we landed in Fresno.  Our friend, Donna, met us and took us to the airport, so we wouldn’t have to leave the car there, and while Scott transferred our two enormous bags, one carry-on bag, and his laptop bag from our car to hers, Donna laughed at our absurd amount of luggage while I stood in the rain holding an umbrella over Scott and FREEZING.

Our initial flight was delayed a bit, so we grabbed some lunch in the airport, and then went through security.  For some reason, they were hurrying us through.  Something about the last call for our flight, even though we still had over thirty minutes. . . ?  I went through fine, but something about Scott or his bags set off the alarm and they detained him.  He told me to go on, which I did, and at the gate I waited and waited and waited.  He finally appeared, doing his O.J. Simpson imitation, and we made it on the plane just before they locked the door.  Marginless living at its best.  Scott didn’t know what set off the alarm but he figured maybe it was the tomatoes that he had packed in his carry-on.

Anyway, we made it through Denver to Fresno, where a very, very nice silver Chrysler 200 with black interior awaited us.  The rental car lady gave us all the talk about being back on time and having the tank filled and the odometer reading written down.  If we failed to fill the tank within five miles of the airport, they would charge us an additional $8.79 per gallon to fill it!  We assured her we’d be back on time with the tank filled and the odometer reading written down.

By this time it was pushing 6 PM and we were hungry and needed to buy groceries.  We decided the grocery shopping would go better if we ate first, so we had a fine meal at Chik-Fil-A, which was next door to an In-N-Out Burger, which I wanted to try after having heard Andrew Vandever’s rave review, but Scott said he did NOT want to eat at a place that served french fries.  Let us never confuse waffle fries with french fries.

We finally found the grocery and spent an hour to obtain enough food for a family of four for a week.  No, there are NOT four of us on this trip, but that’s what happens when you shop in a strange store from a non-existent list, crafted from a total absence of a menu.  We ended up wandering the aisles and saying things like, “What would be good with that pork?”  and, “We still need bread,” and “Won’t you be bored with just one kind of cereal?”  Pretty funny.

Actually, the really funny part had to do with cheddar cheese.  See, since we are on a very special once-in-a-lifetime vacation, we have chosen to splurge a bit, or at least to not count every penny in every situation.  However, a certain level of personal thriftiness is so deeply ingrained into both of our personalities that certain things just make us choke.  I prefer Swiss cheese on my sandwiches, and I can do co-jack or provolone when necessary.  Scott does NOT like co-jack, and although he will do Swiss occasionally, his preferred cheese is cheddar, the sharper the better.  Now, we knew we’d be eating sandwiches for about six days.  That’s 12 slices of cheese, and about four of those would need to be sharp cheddar.  So we went to the cheese section, but the smallest package of sharp cheddar had about 12 slices.  Normally this would be no problem – we’d just take the leftovers home – but since we’re flying, that might be a little difficult (although not as difficult as bringing home the Breyer’s).

So Scott had this great idea to go to the deli counter and just get four slices of sharp cheddar.  It would be a horrendous price per pound, but how much could four slices weigh, anyway?  It was something like 8 PM, and I had noticed earlier that the deli guy seemed to be cleaning things up, so I ran back over to the deli to ask if he could slice us some cheese.

“Sure, I can do that.”

“OK.  Thanks a lot.  Let me go find my husband and let him pick what he wants.”

Note that after 25 years of marriage, there are some things on which it still isn’t smart for me to make decisions for Scott.  After running wildly through the store, I finally found him in the frozen food section, in the corner of the store which is maximally distant from the deli.

“Hey, come quick to the deli.  The guy was closing up but he says he can slice some cheese for us.”

We drove our cart back to the deli, and the guy gave us some sobering news.

“It’ll take a while because our cheese slicer is closed down and I’ll have to clean the meat slicer.  Do you want to wait?”

Well, after all this, yes.  So we stood there for ten minutes while the deli guy meticulously cleaned the meat slicer.  I’m not exaggerating.   Then, when he FINALLY finished that task to his satisfaction, he turned to ask us which cheese we wanted.

“Sharp cheddar, please.”

Now, in the deli case were displayed partially used “logs” of every kind of cheese you can imagine:  provolone, mild cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, American, mozzarella, etc.  But to get us some sharp cheddar, he would have to cut open a new log – you know, with the red wax covering?  I was feeling really embarrassed at this point, but we pressed forward, watching him in painfully slow motion cut open that cheese log.

“And how much sharp cheddar did you want?”

(wanting to sink into the linoleum) “Four slices, please.”

So he cut us four slices, and while he did, Scott said, “You know, it’s going to be pretty funny if we figure out that these four slices of deli cheese are costing us more than the 12 slices of packaged cheese that we could have thrown out the leftovers of.”  I agreed, and we never did do that math.

[Post-trip note:  We brought home two slices of Swiss and two slices of the deli sharp cheddar.  = )   We couldn’t bear to throw them out, and we figured that packed in one of the checked bags, they could ride in the belly of the plane, which would be plenty cool at 33,000 feet.]

Finally, we headed out of Fresno and drove through the dark for about an hour to our lovely home away from home.   It’s on a nineteen-acre plot of sloping, scruffy land, and the owner lives in another house on the property.  Aside from Mary, whose house is barely out of sight from ours, we are totally alone, which is both peaceful and romantic.  = )

So we had to haul into the house two massive bags, one carry-on bag, Scott’s laptop bag, my purse, and an unmentionable number of bags of groceries, including, but in no way limited to, Breyer’s PEACH ice cream!!!  That deliciousness is totally exempt from the constraints of innate frugality.

Since we were focused on getting the refrigerated, and especially the frozen, groceries put away, I didn’t at first see the gift bag on the counter.  But when I did, I saw that it said in big letters, “Happy Anniversary from Your Kids.”  From our kids?!?!?  Now, how could that be?  And then I saw a small stuffed pelican sticking out of the top of the bag!  A pelican.  “Oh, Scott!  A pelican!”  And I burst into tears.  As I pulled out the pelican, I saw a book entitled, “The Guide to Owning Skinks.”  Wow!  A pelican and a skink.  How did they DO that?

We sat together on the couch and went through all the contents of the bag:

~ an adorable stuffed pelican

~ a book about skinks

~ a letter from Josiah

~ a card from Jessica

~ a card from Andrew

~ a card from Katie

~ a puzzle made from a photo of us kissing in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  We were both totally overwhelmed and blessed.  And we cried.  We have such great kids, and it was so touching that they gave us such special gifts.  Those cards and letters contain some of the most affirming words any parents could ever hope to read.

We didn’t remember telling the kids where we’d be staying, but Katie emailed “Mary,” and they sent her all the stuff and she put it together for us.  So, our anniversary trip began very, very, very well.  Not only do we love each other, we know that our kids love us an awful lot, too.

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